February 25, 2020

Millennial Time Distortion

“The other week, there was a viral tweet from a user called @quartzen that went as follows:

@quartzen
The sense of time I have as a millennial is so weird…
1970: About 30 years ago
1980: About 20 years ago
1990: About 10 years ago
2000: About 10 years ago
2010: About 1,000 years ago
2016: About 10,000 years ago
2018: About 1,000 years ago
Last week: About 1,000 years ago

As it happens, the same day as that tweet was posted, I’d had an article published on this website about the Norwegian island, Sommarøy, which according to certain news articles wanted to abolish time. That story, as it turns out, was an elaborate hoax, cooked up by the Norwegian state’s tourism agency — as this rather disproportionately outraged Forbes article makes clear.

Luckily this may not really matter (for me), because my point remains the same: If we really want to be liberated from Time, we shouldn’t just be looking into abolishing the clock like Sommarøy claimed that it was. We would need a whole new historical consciousness; we would need to found Time anew.

But now it occurs to me — perhaps this re-founding is already, in truth, under way. Day-to-day, we remain subject to the rule of the clock, even in a 24-hour world where our work and our leisure are not always strictly demarcated. But historical time — the time of the calendar — is becoming distorted, as if we have begun to project the old calendar onto an alternative, non-Euclidean, geometrical plane.

The early ‘90s, famously, saw the “End of History,” as it was dubbed by the right-Hegelian political theorist Francis Fukuyama. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus the ostensibly final victory of capitalism and liberal democracy, every important ideological battle had been fought and won — now all that remained was for the gospel of the free market to be spread over the last, dimly resisting corners of the earth. Of course, in reality, the End of History always meant “disaster capitalism” and ethnic conflict in former Soviet (and Yugoslavian) states, and obviously since 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis the myth of the ultimate victory of (a) a liberal world order and (b) a benevolent capitalism that works in the interests of everyone has largely gone completely away.”

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